Tuesday, October 13, 2009



Shana Feste
Writer/Director of the Opening Night film, The Greatest
Photo by Eric Roffman

There's 107 films, a bunch of panels, and lots of parties, with usually 5-10 things happening at the same time, so I apologize for only experiencing a fraction of the action at HIFF 2009 (aka The 17th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival).

Here are some brief notes on some things I saw and did, people I met, and places I ate. Several of these will be the subject of in depth articles and, earlier, I wrote previews of the festival and of the Breakthrough Performers event, as well as an article on publicizing yourself and your film.

(Since stories in the blog appear in order from later dates to earlier dates -- the more recent the article, the higher it is on the page -- articles written after this story will appear above it, and articles I've already written can be found below by scrolling down on this page.)

Articles I'm working on include interviews with Emmy Rossum and Ashley Springer from the cast, as well as the writer and director of Dare; a retrospective of the Breakthrough Performers event; more about the Sloan Foundation; more photos and videos; and more detailed reviews of several films. These will be published over the next few days. Keep watching this site!

Here's a brief cruise through some highlights (for me) of the 2009 HIFF:

The Breakthrough Performer's event brings some of the world’s most exciting young acting talent to the Hamptons.

Alba Rohrwacher
Italian Shooting Star
And star of The Ladies Get Their Say
Photo by Eric Roffman

Three of the Breakthrough Performers were in Dare: (I'll have a detailed story -- with interviews -- closer to the release of Dare in November.)

Emmy Rossum
Rising Star & star of Dare
Photo by Eric Roffman

Emmy Rossum has grown from a great singer who -- though slightly stiff -- held her own as star in the film of Phantom of the Opera, to a beautiful, tall, smart and accomplished actress in Dare, in which her character essentially emerges from a cocoon, transforming from a geeky moth to a sexual, high-flying butterfly.

Zach Gilford (who, unfortunately did not show up in the Hamptons, because he was filming Friday Night Lights) navigates a tricky role as a sensitive and disturbed bad-boy hunk.

Rooney Mara
Rising Star and star of
Dare and Tanner Hall
Photo by Eric Roffman

Rooney Mara, in a small role in Dare, and in a similar character with a bigger role in Tanner Hall, exhibits a fascinating combination of wisdom, recklessness, joy, maturity and childishness. The writer and director of Dare have fashioned a sensitive and sophisticated triangular story, with Ashley Springer (no relation to the Springer PR family) a smart, young, funny actor, playing the third side (with Emmy and Zach) of the triangle. (This being a closed triangle, the film is of some interest to gay audiences, although its universal and original story about self-realization is of interest to all ages and all types of people.)


Amy Redford and Alan Alda
At the Sloan Celebration
Photo by Eric Roffman

The Sloan Foundation has a program whose objective is to support the presentation of science and scientists in films and theater. At a retrospective celebration of ten years of Sloan participation at HIFF, Alan Alda gave an absolutely brilliant talk about the relation between art and science. Amy Redford, who will be directing a script the Sloan Foundation has been supporting, gave a brief, but cogent description of how a good film could be made from the story of Hedy Lamarr, who in addition to being a beautiful movie star, was the co-inventor (the beautiful co-inventor -- inventors can be beautiful) of frequency hopping ( U.S. Patent 2,292,387), a technology of great importance in technology today (such as cell phone transmission systems).

Lily, Lily (in English exhibition renamed My Words, My Lies, My Love) is a brilliantly written love story with David Bruhl and Hannah Herzsprung. David and Hannah both deliver superb performances, David as a shy waiter who suddenly becomes -- through fraud -- Germany's most celebrated author, and Hannah as a smart, warm/cold muse, loving, but edgy.

(Note: Hanna Herzsprung was a Rising and Shooting star at the Hamptons the last two years. Her Vier Minuten ends in a concert hall that looks just like the lecture hall where Lily, Lily begins.)

The Surrogate is a deceptively simple or deceptively complex love story, or not a love story. More about this in a dedicated review later. It was paired with Ten: Thirty One, directed by Gabe Fazio, which was the best short film I saw at the festival.

Suzanne DiDonna (l)
Star of Ten: Thirty One
With director Gabe Fazio's eye (r)
And Polish actress (and Gabe's wife) Joanna Moskwa's lips (c)
Photo by Eric Roffman

With Dirty Oil, a documentary by Leslie Iwerks, about the hazard of harvesting Shale for oil, Babelgum (strange name, but interesting site), heralded its venue for high-end web video. Shale harvesting in the US has been suggested as a source of abundant domestic oil, and this documentary is particularly important because the issues it raises need to be considered to prevent thoughtless and irreversibly dangerous choices from being made.

Leslie Iwerks
Director of Dirty Oil
Photo by Eric Roffman

The three biggest troubles with YouTube and similar sites are that (1) they publish anything, (2) the highest traffic goes not to the best, real films, but the silliest, most easy to gape at filmlets. And (3), there's no good way to find really good films. Babelgum is an attempt to collect really fine films, some acquired, some, like Dirty Oil, self-produced. Watching the films is free; Babelgum is supported by advertising. And they are devising players for every possible outlet, including hand-held video players like the iPhone to make watching the films a ubiquitous possibility.

In a panel discussion of new modes of distribution for new filmmakers, VOD was described as an up and coming revenue source. Also emphasized by all the panelists, was the importance of social networking as a vital tool for marketing.

Mira Nair hosted a benefit for her foundation, Maisha, whose objective is to develop filmmaking skills among Africans.

Mira Nair
Photo by Eric Roffman

The film, 8, shown at the benefit screening consisted of 8 short films by eight directors on the eight Millennium Goals. Mira's film, along with Wim Wenders' and Sissako's (the lone African filmmaker), were the most interesting; Mira's, in particular, going beyond a simple exposition of the depth of the problem. Too many of the films were profoundly disturbing (which was, no doubt, intended) , but too simplistic descriptions of these serious problems: hunger, maternal health, devastation by current and future climate conditions, and 5 more.

During the festival I did need to eat and sleep (though rarely).

VUE, one of the sponsors at the festival, is a new "Swiss luxury herbal water." (More in another post.)

Spokeswoman for VUE
At the Chairman's Reception
Photo by Eric Roffman

The parties made it possible to meet filmmakers, and for sponsors to promote their products. Appetizers were mostly very good at most parties, though you had to be in the right place to snatch them before the tray was emptied. I liked the espresso bar a lot.

Photo by Eric Roffman

Gurney's Inn hosts the annual Opening Night Party. I stayed there last year and this. It's a beautiful hotel, and I liked it very much. This year I had a huge two level suite, which gave me lots of room to work, and a great view overlooking the water while working. The photo above is the view just outside my room.

At Della Femina I had a terrific meal at the bar, and a pleasant conversation with an ex-Wall Street executive and his wife. (We talked films & the festival... He said little about Wall Street and the Bear Stearns collapse... except that he wasn't responsible!)

I liked the appetizer snack at Turtle Crossing, a Tex-Mex hangout. The service was very friendly and there's a chocolate lollypop when you leave.

The Clam & Chowder House Restaurant in Montauk served a simple fish sandwich. The fish was a delicious, moist, perfectly broiled fluke.

My last meal in the Hamptons was desert and coffee at the bar at c/o Maidstone (I don't know why they have the c/o). It was a nice, tasty way to end the festival; the bar patrons, and the bar maid were all great to chat with.

The saddest part of the festival is thinking about all the films I did not have time to see because of conflicts with other films, panels, and parties.

Gus Reininger
Director of Corso
Photo by Eric Roffman

Corso is one of the films I most regret missing. The writer/director/producer, Gus Reininger, is an old friend from Wall Street that I haven't seen in decades, and the film -- about the last of the beat poets -- sounds fascinating. (Gus was co-creator of the NBC TV drama, Crime Story, and writer or producer of many other films and TV episodes; this is the first film he has directed.)

The Award winning films are worth catching when you can!

Golden Starfish Award for Best Narrative Feature: The Misfortunates, directed by Felix van Groeningen

Special Jury Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Actor: Paprika Steen,

Golden Starfish Award for Best Documentary: Long Distance Love, directed by Magnus Gertten and Elin Jonsson

Special Jury Award: Mugabe and the White African, Lucy Bailey & Andrew Thompson

Golden Starfish Award for Best Short: Dust Kid, directed by Jung Yumi

Best Film of Conflict & Resolution: Rabbit a la Berlin, directed by Bartek Konopka

Audience Award for Best Narrative Film: The Young Victoria, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee

Audience Award for Best Documentary: Waking Sleeping Beauty, directed by Don Hahn

Audience Award for Best Short: This is Her, directed by Katie Wolfe

Zicherman Foundation Award for Best Screenplay: Felix van Groeningen for The Misfortunates

Kodak Award for Best Cinematography: Ruben Impens for
The Misfortunates

Kanbar Indie Award: Antonio Campos for My Adventures in Ladies’ Undergarments

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Prize: Agora, directed by Alejandro Amenabar

Roc Skincare Gold Standard in Filmmaking Award for a feature female director: Cheryl Hines for Serious Moonlight

Wouter Barendrecht Award for Pioneering Vision: Big River Man, John Maringouin


Andrea Wozny
Producer/Director of To Timbuktu
Photo by Eric Roffman

Finally, one of the most important reasons filmmakers come to the Hamptons is not to show a film, nor to see a film, but to develop a film. One new producer, for example, is Andrea Wozny who was in the Hamptons to move her project along: It's To Timbukto, about a singer from Mali, and, like Sissako's Bamako, also touches on issues of the world's economic treatment of this African country.

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You can watch Dirty Oil trailer and introduction on www.babelgum.com/dirtyoil as well as Downstream (full movie).
You can also embed the clips onto your blog for free.
Just to be clear, "Downstream" is the name of a short (33 min) film on the same subject as "Dirty Oil." The full movie "Downstream" can be watched on the site. Downloading the full "Dirty Oil" is not yet available.
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